How to destress in heavy traffic
Look, sitting in traffic is no fun, right? And it’s easy to lose your rag, as precious seconds of your life drip, drip, drip away as you stare at immovable brake lights ahead of you. But here are our top tips to avoid getting all het up while commuting.
This sound facetiously simple, but if you don’t start your day at breakneck speed, with no spare time factored into the equation, then you’re more likely to end up fuming in traffic. Get up earlier when it’s term time on the roads, so that you’ve got a buffer zone of time in case the traffic is worse than usual, thanks to the school-run parents. If it’s forecast to be bad weather, also get up and get going a bit sooner in the morning, so that you’ve accounted for unexpected hold-ups caused by minor fender-benders (which are more common in damp, cold and gloomy conditions). Even if you can prep some of your stuff for the next day the night before (your work clothes, your packed lunch, all the stuff you’re going to use for breakfast…) you’ll save time in the morning and the more time you’ve got, the less stressed you’re going to be. Surely it’s better to arrive at work five minutes early than ten minutes late?
Be zen behind the wheel
Stretch your neck, breathe deeply, eat little snacks that are rich in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants. All of these things will help you keep your blood pressure down. The phrase ‘pain in the neck’ comes from the fact that, when you’re stressed, all the muscles in your shoulders and upper back tighten up, so roll your head around on your neck to relieve tension. Slow down your breathing; it might sound like meaningless hippy nonsense, but if you’re breathing fast then you’ve likely stimulated adrenaline to course through your veins. This is our age old ‘flight or fight’ function, and you simply don’t need this in heavy traffic, so breathing more slowly (or even inhaling very deeply and holding it for a few seconds) gets more oxygen into your body and relaxes your nervous system. And treats like nuts or acidic fruits will give you the nutrients that are said to lower stress levels.
Turn it up, or turn it off
Two choices with the in-car tech here. Either find your preferred music on Spotify or your favourite radio station, and then crank it up so you’re listening to your favourite tunes, or alternatively switch off all the technology and meditate in the silence of the car’s interior. In terms of music, either chilled-out electronica with soothing, smooth sounds are good, as they are calming, or go for an upbeat, poppy number, because fast, enjoyable music is said to release endorphins and thus ease away the stress. Alternatively, turn off your phone so that Michael from Accounts can’t ring you on your journey home to talk about this month’s exorbitant expenses claim, and sit there quietly with your own thoughts. Musing about the day’s work will soon make you forget you’re in a massive traffic jam.
Travel smart, travel further
This one’s not a catch-all for everyone, because many of us don’t have the budget to re-route our usual commute and thus use up more fuel, nor can we choose when we go to work. But maybe, just maybe, you’re one of the lucky ones who has slightly flexible working hours, or you’ve got a plug-in hybrid car that you can charge at work for a few cents, giving you more range. In which case, try and go into work later and leave later, to avoid the worst of rush hour traffic, or take the long way home. If you know a few rat-runs and alternative, twisty roads that’ll get you to where you’re going without a hold-up, then a few extra kilometres on the clock is surely worth it. You know they say that prevention of a problem is far better than a cure, so what better way to de-stress on your commute than avoiding stress entirely in the first place?